When most people think of their grandmother’s cooking, I can almost guarantee that this is not the dish they think of, unless they too have a Japanese grandmother from Hawaii. But it’s the first one I think of when I remember my childhood afternoons at grandma’s house in Makakilo, Hawaii. I was lucky to have my maternal grandmother and uncle living in a house just a quick 5 minute drive up the hill from my house. I remember grandma driving all the way down from her house on rainy days to pick my brother and I up to drive us the excruciating 1/2 mile walk to our elementary school, just so we wouldn’t get wet. But some of my most outstanding memories were the tasty treats I’d eat at grandma’s house after school, such as Vienna Sausage, Diamond Head Bakery soda crackers, Diamond Head Red Cream Soda, and her home-cooked hyotan squash with chicken.
Grandma grew hyotan in her vegetable garden and she used it to make a soft, tasty dish that became a staple in my diet. It showed up at family potlucks, when someone was feeling under the weather, or when my brother wasn’t eating enough veggies, as this was the only dish with greens he would eat without complaint. I didn’t realize how rare of a dish it was until I left home to go to college; grandma’s hyotan squash and chicken dish became something I’d see only once a year, if I was lucky.
A couple years ago, my mom Cynthia Pratt entered grandma’s hyotan squash and chicken dish into a recipe contest. Mom’s recipes have a tendency to win these sorts of contests, so it was no surprise when it was selected for publication in Hawaii’s ‘Ohana Cookbook. Recently, a desire for the dish along with the chance luck of finding some hyotan squash at Viet Wah on Christmas Day inspired me to prepare the dish for myself.
It’s a rather simple dish that can easily be prepared and cooked in an hour or less. The main ingredient, hyotan, is also known as a bottle gourd or long melon. It can be found in my Asian supermarket stores. Check out the recipe below, as it also appears in the cookbook. Oh, and my version of the dish was just the way I’d remembered it!
Hyotan with Gingery Garlic Chicken Murakami Family Recipe
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons minced ginger root
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
4 lbs hyotan (long squash)
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
1/2 cup water, broth, or beer
Salt and better to taste
Green onions or cilantro chopped (garnish).
1. Cut chicken thighs crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Combine chicken with ginger, garlic, and salt and set into a bowl. Put aside.
2. Peel hyotan with a vegetable peeler, removing just the first layer of green skin. Scrape out the moist seeds inside and throw seeds away. Cut remaining squash into cubes 1-inch thick.
3. Heat oil in a large, deep pot with a lid. Gently sauté chicken on medium heat until chicken is fully cooked.
4. Add water, broth, or beer. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Layer hyotan atop chicken. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until squash is soft and loses its green color.
6. Stir gently and season with extra salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with green onions or cilantro, if desired.
7. Serve in bowls on top of hot rice!